In the early 1900s, Dr. Maria Montessori developed a new philosophy of learning centered around respect for the child, guiding the child toward independence and allowing children time to explore their own interests. With this philosophy, a new structure of the daily school schedule emerged, which allows for three hours of free time where the child decides what they want to do. This is perhaps the biggest difference between a Montessori program and a traditional preschool program, as traditional preschools focus on teacher directed activities and moving the children together as a group to achieve a lesson or goal. Montessori schools foster independence & encourage children to complete certain everyday tasks on their own. In addition, the philosophy refers to children's play as their "work" in order to give children a sense of responsibility and ownership over what they accomplish. While most of the "work" is a form of play, you likely not see a pretend play area in a Montessori program. Montessori schools have gained popularity in recent years and while many can have wonderful early childhood programs, it is important to know that anyone can use the name "Montessori" and not actually have Montessori trained teachers. If you are looking for a Montessori school, it is best to ask if the school is accredited by the American Montessori Society. Knowing if your child is right for a Montessori school is best determined by visiting and having your child play in the classroom. This is also how most administrators determine if a child is a good fit for Montessori.
LH Editors Note: When picking a preschool, we recommend that you visit more than one Montessori school AND more than one traditional preschool program. Talk to the teachers, observe a classroom, and try to visit an open house with your child. Good Luck!
Mary Yengle is a Hoboken resident and the owner of Little Bee Learning Studio. She is a certified Montessori teacher and previously worked as a preschool teacher in NYC before opening her own local play space for kids. To learn more about Mary and the Little Bee Learning Studio, visit her website or stop by the studio!